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Jesperi Kotkaniemi continues to pile up assists with the Laval Rocket

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Finnish centre picks up a pair of assists in 5-4 shootout loss to Manitoba

There’s something about Jesperi Kotkaniemi and playing at home, whether it be with the Montreal Canadiens or the Laval Rocket.

It came in a losing effort, but Kotkaniemi registered two assists in Laval’s 5-4 shootout loss to Manitoba Wednesday night at Place Bell. Kotkaniemi’s assists (including a primary helper) came on goals from his fellow linemates Jake Evans and Charles Hudon.

The Finnish centre has picked up at least one point in each home game he’s played so far since his first game on February 1 against the Belleville Senators. He picked up three assists in his first two games with the Rocket on their most recent five-game road trip, but he went cold in the final three games.

Twenty-six of his 42 career points as a Hab have also come at home. During his debut season in 2018-19, all 11 of his goals came at the Bell Centre.

“I think both teams have great fans,” Kotkaniemi said. “The building is loud every night when we play here and in the Bell Centre. I think that brings so much more energy to your game. I enjoy that.”

Of course, he’s been helped by the guys around him on his line. Charles Hudon has proven to be an American Hockey League sharpshooter who’s benefitted from having Kotkaniemi, especially during special teams. Evans’s game has also seemed to complement the Finn, and Kotkaniemi praised the Toronto native’s skills.

“I think he’s a hell of a player,” Kotkaniemi said. “I’ve been watching his game when he played with the Canadiens. I think he did a great job there. He’s a 200-foot player. He can do everything. Huge skater. He can be a little gritty. He’s got the skill set there. I think he’ll be a key player for the Habs for a long time.”

“It’s been fun. He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s a great player,” Evans said. “I think we, and Charles, have been developing some good chemistry.”

Kotkaniemi has had no problem getting assists for his team, but perhaps he’s due for his first goal as a member of the Rocket.

“I hope so,” Kotkaniemi said. “Just trying to hit the net and hopefully I’ll get some lucky bounce.”